The Daily Herald – In Provo, the word “community” is often synonymous with the word “church.” For those in Utah County who do not affiliate with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, finding “community” can be challenging.
And that’s exactly what the Provo Pride Festival is trying, year by year, to change. Going into its fourth year, the festival chose the theme, “Diversity creates community,” for its Saturday festival. The theme is meant to show that they aren’t simply a group that must be accepted — but a group that is vital to the Utah County community as a whole.
“Yes, Provo Pride is a minority group within our community,” said James Bunker, president of Provo Pride. “But without diversity and groups like ourselves, there would not be community.”
The festival is designed as both an outreach to the community in general and as a way to create a safe space for those in the LGBTQ community. Bunker said that those in the LGBTQ community often have a difficult time finding a sense of community within Utah County. “They either don’t know where to look for it, or they’re too afraid to find it or be a part of it,” Bunker said.
Many people at the festival were there to help those of the LGBTQ community find that sense of community, though they took different approaches.
The booth sponsored by Mormons Building Bridges offered free hugs and stickers to anyone and everyone walking by. Their goal? To let people at the festival know that, despite what many may think or feel, LGBTQ people are still welcome in Mormon churches.
“We just want to show our love and support and say, hey, we still want you at our churches. I know it’s been really hard this last year, but we still love the community, and we just want to say we love you and support you in what we do,” said Jessica Elliott, an Orem resident volunteering at the Mormons Building Bridges booth.
Another group, Oasis, has tried to create a church-like community for those who don’t necessarily practice a specific faith. Though people from any religion are welcome, the secular group seeks to provide the community many people in Provo find at church.
Just started in February, Oasis is still trying to grow. The weekly Sunday morning meetings, which feature speakers and kids activities, see anywhere from 20 to 50 people attend per week, said David Buchanan, Oasis board member.
Buchanan said he’s hopeful that having the booth at the Provo Pride Festival will help raise awareness of the group, who come together during hard times in ways similar to a church.
“In this area, the LDS people have their community, right?” Buchanan said. “And everybody else doesn’t have that, so we’re trying to create an acceptance and support group for everybody: LDS, non-LDS, gay, straight, whatever.”